How to Make Quick Pickles – Guest Post by Megan Thompson

When I heard that my friend Megan Thompson was making “Quick Pickles” with her co-op cucumbers this week, I asked her to show us how to do it.  She did not disappoint!  You can read more about Megan in her bio at the bottom of the page.  On to the pickle-making…

I was very excited when Alysa asked me to write a guest blog about Quick Pickles. My family loves pickles and, luckily, they are quick and easy to make. Pickles can be a great tasting, healthy addition to almost any summer meal or to enjoy as a snack!
The term “pickles” in North America and Canada often refers to pickled cucumbers, although a pickle is really any type of fruit of vegetable that is marinated in a brine or acid solution (usually vinegar), resulting in a very flavorful method of food preservation.

Traditional pickling techniques involve brining in a salt water solution until fermentation occurs (like Korean kimchi). Or, making an acidic pickling liquid, processing in a hot water bath/canner and then waiting 4-5 weeks before eating. I prefer the “quick pickle” method in which you pack your jars with raw veggies of choice, make a pickling solution, pour over top veggies and chill for 4-24 hours.

For a few years now, I have noticed articles in food and cooking magazines featuring “quick pickles” made by popular restaurant chefs. Since I had never made pickles before, I thought I would give it a shot. The “Spicy Dill Quick Pickles” recipe from Food and Wine’s article: Perfecting Quick Pickles was my first attempt at making my own cucumber pickles. I omitted the spicy part (the chilies) as I was making these for the whole family and didn’t know how fiery they would turn out.

I was pleasantly surprised with the result, as was my then 3 year old daughter. The pickles were cool and crunchy (how I like my pickles) with a crisp and clean taste from the abundance of fresh dill wedged between the cucumber spears. The recipes from this article are super easy as they do not require heating the pickling liquid; you simply mix and pour it over the veggies and chill.

Last week I received 10 small cucumbers in my Bountiful Basket and knew immediately what I would do with them….make pickles! This time I decided to try another recipe from the Food and Wine article, Winey-Briny Quick Pickles. The pickling solution includes mustard seeds, white wine, shallots and fresh tarragon. Tarragon is one of the four fine herbs of French cooking with an aromatic property reminiscent of anise (licorice flavor).

First, select your veggies: cucumbers (any kind will work but “Kirby” cucumbers or “pickling cucumbers” will yield a crisper pickle), carrots, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, onions, radishes, rhubarb etc. I made a second batch with some small pesticide-free cucumbers I found at Sunflower Market and they worked great!

Then slice veggies into desired shapes. I did mostly spears, along with some “chips” from the ends after cutting the pickles down to stand just inside the lip of the jar.

And my daughter made a few of her own small jars of “relish”.

 Pack the veggies into jars (you can also do this in a glass or non-reactive bowl or container that can be covered/sealed when placed in fridge.) If you are making dill pickles, tuck washed, fresh dill in around the veggies as you pack.
This is where you need to make sure you read your recipe closely. Some recipes instruct  you to combined ingredients in a saucepan and heat to boil before pouring over veggies. The recipe I used said to mix all ingredients in a jar, shake to combine and disolve the sugar and salt and then pour the cold mixture over veggies.

Make sure the veggies are completely submerged in the jar, if not, add a little water until they are totally covered. Secure the lid (or cover with plastic wrap) and place the jar in the refridgerator. Pickles can be eaten in as little as 2-4 hours, but you should wait at least 24 hours for the flavors to fully penetrate the vegetables. The flavors will become stronger each day, peaking around 1 week. You can  keep them in the fridge for 2-3 weeks…sometimes even longer!

The Winey-Briny pickles have a mellower flavor, as the white wine vinegar, fresh herbs and aromatics do not leave the same tang on your tongue as the garlicky dills. The cucumbers in this concoction of flavors taste amazing! The flavors compliment eachother beautifully. I could sit down and eat an entire jar!

 I really like the winey-briny pickles, though my husband says he prefers the original Spicy Dills- which I made yesterday as well- with some of the spice this time. Note: I ended up using one of the dried chilies broken up and split between the 2 jars and they are plenty spicy!
As if I had not already filled my fridge with enough pickles already, as an added bonus, I also made pickled red onions for the first time, using this recipe by Molly Wizenberg.

I placed the brine ingredients in a saucepan and brought to a simmer. In the meantime I sliced up all my onions (I did a double batch so I could give a few jars as gifts).

Once boiling, I added the onions to pot, stirred to combine, took them off heat, covered the pot and let them sit for 20 minutes.
After the onions have had time to soak, I poured into a non-reactive bowl and let them cool completely.

 Then I filled the jars, sealed them and put them in the fridge. These onions are ready to eat as soon as they are cooled, but if you wait a few hours or days they will be wonderfully flavorful. Pickled onions are great as a tacotopper in the summer time, or with any mexican or latin inspired dishes. They also add an unexpected flair to sandwiches and salads or as an accompaniment to just about anything that comes off the grill!

The thing to remember is that it is hard to mess up quick pickles. Many of the ingredients are most likely already in your pantry. Be creative and try all different kinds of veggies and even fruit! On the link for the onion recipe, you will find some interesting recipes for pickled prunes and grapes…I may have to give the grapes a try! As with all preserving techniques, make sure you use produce at the peak of freshness. So, get out there and tackle summer’s bounty– and enjoy the instant gratification of quick pickles!

More about Megan: 

I am a Tucson native and obtained a degree in Physiology from the University of Arizona. I am a mother of two energentic little girls, Madeline 4 years old and Kendall 1 year old. My husband and I went through the fire academy while dating. We married and both worked as Firefighter Paramedics for over 10 years. After having kids, I decided to take a break from the fire dept. to stay at home and raise my girls. My passions include cooking, sewing, photography and travel. Each summer I participate in a local fundraiser called Primavera Cooks! where I work as an apprentice chef in some of the city’s high-end restaurants, cooking fancy wine-paired meals to raise money for Tucson’s homeless.  I grew up in the kitchen, and have a love for the food my great grandmothers (from Czech Repulic and Lithuania) used to cook.  I try to cook a healthy, delicious, hot meal for my family every night, and am greatly enjoying teaching my 4 year old how to cook along side me. I believe that it is very important to teach our youngsters how to cook, carry on family tradtions and learn healthy eating habits and choices!

  • Amy August 20, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    My teen daughter has been wanting to make pickles. This post has inspired us. Can't wait to go shopping for some good cucumbers & onions at the Farmer's Market this weekend.

  • Alysa August 20, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    That's great Amy! You two will have fun!

  • Kat August 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Wow, this looks easy enough that even I may be able to pull it off! Thanks for the post. We love pickles, but I have been afraid of how difficult the canning process might be.

  • Alisa February 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    I remember helping my mom can in the late summers, packing the pickle jars… but I don't have a pressure cooker! And I don't have a huge surplus of vegetables, and I do like pickles, and I don't like pickles with dyes in them! Thanks for the tutorial.

  • Alysa February 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Alisa, I hate buying pickles at the store because of the dyes and high fructose corn syrup in them. These quick pickles are so easy! And you can do them with any veggie.